"" Writer's Wanderings: Iceland - Ever Changing Landscape

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Iceland - Ever Changing Landscape

From fingers of glaciers to coastal waters to fjords to mountains the landscape of Iceland varies constantly. Black lava rock, green pines, black sand, golden tundra, and waterfalls--more waterfalls than I've ever seen anywhere. Of course this day there was a lot of moisture to feed them. It never really rained much but as we passed from cloud to cloud, climbing higher then going lower, the misty drizzle varied in its heaviness.

It was a long drive to Lake Myvatn from Egilsstadir. There were a few waterfalls to stop and see but for the most part we kept traveling since it was so wet outside.

One of the things we noticed in our drive around Iceland was all the cairns. Cairns are piles of stones set up by people for various reasons. Sometimes they mark a place as a memorial or just as a way to say we've been there. There are some that follow a boundary or mark a pathway. One line of cairns made us wonder if it was marking the continental meeting of Europe and America but we had no way to know. Perhaps it was just a way to mark a trail. It is said that when the snow covers everything people have found their way by following cairns. Because of the popularity of visitors making cairns, there are signs in many places that say it is forbidden especially where they are trying to protect the environment.

Power, awesome power, was almost a theme of the day. Much of Iceland's power is derived from the geo thermal activity beneath the surface. It heats their homes and channeled through pipes to turn generators also produces electrical power. But some also comes from their tremendous waterfalls. The two videos below give you an idea of just how powerful nature can be. The first is the Dettifloss, a waterfall that could only be totally appreciated by its sound as well as sight. The second the powerful escape of steam from a geo thermal hot spring. Amazing.

Dettifloss is said to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe (remember much of Iceland is considered a part of Europe). A little further up the river was a smaller waterfall called Selfoss.

And then there were the Hevrir hot springs:

We stopped at the Myvatn Nature Bath just before noon and then realized it didn't open until noon. We were only planning on checking it out anyway and maybe getting some light lunch. There was a walkway around the restaurant side that led to a deck overlooking the nature bath so we got a chance to see it while it was empty of bodies. It looked very peaceful. Returning in the middle of the afternoon, we found the parking lot full of tour buses and learned from the attendant inside that there was a cruise ship in the port of Akureyri a little northwest of where we were. He suggested coming back after dinner and it would be much less crowded. It was a plan.

Needing to kill a little more time before we could check in to our guesthouse, we headed for the volcano park call Dimmuborgir. It was a good opportunity to walk around a bit and the volcanic rocks made interesting natural sculptures. During the winter season and from what I could gather, mostly the Christmas season, there are some real live "trolls" called the Yule Lads (Santas) who hang out there. Looked like it could be a lot of fun.

I was excited about the Vogafjos Guesthouse where we were to stay the night. We checked in and made reservations for our dinner at 5:30. That was the time that the cow milking was to start. The restaurant had two walls of glass that look out into the cow barn and the milking stations. We stowed our things in our room which was actually across the street from the farm and headed back at the appropriate time to have our dinner.

Respectful of the cows, we ordered lamb for dinner and just after our meal arrived the dinner show got started. Of course they have the modern milking machines. It wasn't all done by hand. But it was interesting to watch the procedure. Several people went into the barn and were handed samples of milk straight from the cow. Eventually the waitress from the restaurant went out and the milker filled a small pitcher with the warm milk and she brought it in to put in small sample cups for anyone wanting to taste it. We did and it was amazing! It was light and I would imagine it could even be refreshing if you had more than a small sample. None of the heavy taste of our milk back home. Makes me wonder what the pasteurization process does to our milk.

After dinner as promised, we went back to the Myvatn Nature Bath. There were still a lot of cars in the parking lot but the buses were all gone. One of the things that had made me nervous was the common shower area in most of the spas or nature baths. We knew ahead of time that this one had several private showers so I went in feeling confident and not nearly as nervous as I would have otherwise.

After a quick shower and donning my bathing suit, I went out and met Bob in the hallway leading to the bath. We quickly walked to a spot near the entrance on the railing that we could wrap our towels around and slipped out of our shower flip flops and hustled into the milky water. It was nice and warm and soothing at first. There was little sulphur smell.

We explored several areas of the bath and found that there were places where the water was piped in that were warmer than other spots and we found one where we just sort of hung out and watched the sunset and the young people congregate (it seemed the attendant didn't tell us that the younger crowd was there after dinner).

After a while though our skin began to feel a little slimy. Maybe I should say silky because they claim that this water with its minerals is good for the skin. I'll stick with slimy. Our time in the water amounted to about 45 minutes but we were done. The cold evening air hit us when we got out but actually was a bit refreshing. A few quick steps and we were in the shower area again. We showered off the natural water and dressed then met in the restaurant area for a cup of tea before heading for our guesthouse.

Myvatn is billed as the Northern Lights capital of Iceland. We checked several times before calling it a night but with no luck. There were still too many clouds. The nights were passing. Would we get to see them? We were now on the north side of Iceland. North should be a good place for Northern Lights, right?

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